HOUSTON — Texas has seen a 156% increase in school children arrested for making terroristic threats in just the first half of 2018!
“Most of this increase was found to be between 10-13 year old children, and of that African American students were twice as likely to be charged with these offenses even though, we all know that there is very little history of African American students engaging in school shootings,” Supervising Attorney at Disability Rights Texas Dustin Rynders said.
A new study compiled by Texas Appleseed, Disability Rights Texas, and others — makes the case that a zero tolerance approach is casting too wide a net, all in the name of safety and security. They also point out Harris County and HISD both had the highest numbers among counties and school districts respectively.
“What I think we're seeing is understandably schools are really afraid right now after school shootings and so schools haven't been equipped with research based threat assessment tools to figure out which threats are real and which threats aren't [...] And unfortunately, law enforcement here is also under equipped to really differentiate between real threats and a kid just mouthing off and saying something stupid and for that reason everyone`s just being charged with felonies,” Rynders said.
After Parkland and Santa Fe, the sick trend of copycat threat making made national headlines.
The Harris County District Attorney made clear what was going to happen, saying in February, "by treating everything as high risk, I hope to avert any kind of major disaster here.”
And to be fair these kids were warned repeatedly. Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said “it is something that we can not tolerate, so to the young people, do not joke, do not threaten, do not make statements that can be construed as threats.”
Even so, these are still kids, most of which were 10 to 13 years old!
“We know a lot about the human brain, and kids are not just small adults. Kids are different. Their frontal lobes aren't fully developed until they're 24. No, I won't say just because someone is told 'no, don't say that,' that we subject them to adult systems and adult consequences when they mess up,” Rynders said.
No one is saying a threat, serious or silly, should be ignored.
“I think that there's a long history of young people being impulsive and saying silly things and that the majority of times a young person saying something about wanting to hurt someone else, luckily, they don't mean it. And so that's why it's so important that there are research-based threat assessments that can be used to sort of sort out these situations figure out what’s serious and what’s not and what kind of interventions are appropriate,” Rynders said.
And a kid getting sent to juvenile detention. Well, they're getting a whole other kind of education in there...yikes!